My Record Collection 135

Kaiser Chiefs – just the one album, Employment – which I think was their big hit album.   Quite an interesting sound, a bit like a 21st Century Squeeze (see S) I suppose; quite laddish and upbeat songs.   But also, quite forgettable too.  They may still be around but they have had their 15 seconds of fame.  Best songs – the single ‘I Predict A Riot’ and ‘Everyday I Love You Less and Less’. 

Howard Kaylan – a real rarity this.   Howard was one of the singers and songwriters with the Turtles (see T) who became along with Mark Volman, Flo and Eddie (see F) and now tour occasionally as The Turtles again.  This single album Dust Bunnies (2006) doesn’t seem to be listed as an official release – and I suspect was made for a few friends and maybe fan-club members.  I found it in a charity shop and recognised the name.  It isn’t great I must admit but I keep it for sentimental reasons.  It is all covers of songs…one or two are good though ‘Eloise’ and ‘Have I The Right’ – but most pass in one ear and out the other.

Keane – another hopeful band of the last few years…the hope was a bit overhyped.   Only the one record – 2004’s Hopes and Fears.  The record is quite pleasant and rolls along but apart from the big single ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ nothing else seems to penetrate to my brain.  I am getting old I expect, but I really wonder; if this is the future of Rock and Roll, we are in trouble.  Anyway, I have bought no more Keane since then – and they seem to have either disappeared or are just resting on their laurels.

Jonathon Kelly – was just another of those hopeful Seventies singer-songwriters.  I saw him at The Roundhouse and bought his two solo albums.  Twice Round The Houses (1970) was the first effort from this Irish troubadour – and lovely it was too.  Very lyrical and folky – best songs ‘Madeleine’, ‘Sligo Fair’ and ‘Beware The Cursed Anna’.  A couple of the songs almost rocked but most were soft and harmonic.  2 years later and Wait Until They Change The Backdrop appeared.  More of the same but a touch rockier as the production was ramped up a bit.  Not quite as good as his debut maybe but still a handful of good songs ‘Godas’ and ‘Anna’ and the quite rocky ‘Down On Me’.  Jonathon sort of disappeared and made one last album in the late Seventies – but I had moved on by then.

Carole King – Well, they don’t get much bigger than Carole.  She was part of the famous Goffin-King song-writing duo – but she split with her husband and went solo.  She hit the big time with Tapestry (1971) – and this album was in the charts for 2 years.  This is where I, and most of her fans, came in so that is where we will start.  This was the very early Seventies, when singer-songwriters were exploding onto the scene.  James Taylor (see T) had already recorded with Joni and he now worked with Carole on ‘You’ve Got A Friend’.  But Carole was the consummate songwriter – and had a huge back library to call on.  She included ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow. But most of the other tracks were new originals.  Where does one start -almost impossible to choose best songs as they are all brilliant.  Carole has a seemingly effortless delivery, gliding into the notes with an ease and maturity; she was already in her prime when she made the album.  The early Seventies were a time of great parties, often impromptu, and always accompanied by Tapestry playing on the record player.  My favourites are probably ‘Way Over Yonder’, ‘I Feel The Earth Move’ and ‘Natural Woman’.  I have actually played this album to death over the years – and yet it always sounds fresh and takes me back to those heady years.

I then worked back and bought her earlier release Writer (1970) , which hadn’t made much of an impression when it was released.  In some ways it is as good as Tapestry – same piano led songs and silky voice and great songs.  A couple of old hits ‘Goin back’ and ‘Up On The Roof’ and some great new songs; ‘Spaceship Races’ and ‘Raspberry Jam’ and the sad ‘Eventually’.  A lovely record and a great companion piece to Tapestry.

Much later I bought The Early Years, released in 1999 – but dating back to the late 60’s.  These are much simpler arrangements, probably demos really.  Actually, the production is much closer to typical 60’s hit singles – a la Phil Spector than her later albums.  On investigation however I find that four songs are originals and the other 6 are poor copies from her third album ‘Music’.  Still, an interesting rawer sound seems to emerge from this album so it feels new and fresh,  Best songs are ‘Crying in The Rain’, ‘It started All Over Again’ and ‘Breaking Up Is Hard To Do’ – which always sounds good.

Another later release after she achieved fame is The Legendary Demos released in 2012 but recorded from 62 to 71.  These do sound like genuine demo tapes, maybe recorded to help sell the songs of Goffin-King.   This is much better, great songs of course – most by Goffin-King, including ‘Crying In The Rain’, ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’ and ‘Take care Of My Baby’ plus 6 demos from Tapestry.  The follow-up to Tapestry came out in 1971 – Music – which was her third official release.  As all artists must know it is almost impossible to release anything as good as a number one album that sold 7 million copies and was the anthem of so many of us in 1970.  This record is pretty damn good, but lacks a little of the magic of Tapestry.  The songs are just a bit quieter, more studied rather than seeming spontaneous – however it too was a great hit.  Best songs  – ‘Surely’, ‘Music’ and best of all ‘Back To California’.  Carole was in the vanguard of the Singer Songwriter movement, but maybe her reluctance to sing live or her older years or just that we all began to suspect that her best songs were her collaborations with Gerry Goffin – whatever it was it, for me at least, it was slowly diminishing returns.  The following year’s Rhymes And Reasons contained some excellent songs…and yet, it somehow failed to hit the mark she had set so high.  This release only made it to number 2 and sold less well over the years.  But, as so often happens, on re-listening my perceptions change somewhat and I have to admit it is quite a decent album.  I think the problem was that all of her contemporaries (Joni, James Taylor, Neil Young etc) were moving on and up at a pace, especially in these early years of the new decade, whereas Carole seemed stuck in a very pleasant groove.  Anyway, best songs ‘Peace in The Valley’, ‘Feeling Sad Tonight’ and ‘Been to Canaan’.   Next up is Fantasy (1973) – I really gave up on Carole at this point.  She went into a more jazzy style and I think she lost it.  Only a couple of songs seem to have any quality to me, ‘Being at War with each other’ and ‘Believe in Humanity’. 

Well – Carole has continued recording down the years, though she hardly ever performs live.  I only have one other album Wrap Around Joy from 1974, which actually sounds better; much more like her original 2 albums.  No really classic songs I think but a nice relaxing album.  The title song is probably the best song; almost a soul classic.  Also, not so bad are ‘Change in Mind, Change of Heart’ and ‘You Gentle Me’.   I also have a greatest Hits Natural Woman which is all her best songs.

Carole King Biography - Facts, Childhood, Family Life of ...

My Record Collection 134

Martyn Joseph – singer songwriter still going strong since the Eighties.  I first discovered Martyn on a CD single ‘Dolphins Make me Cry’ (actually a song by Fred Neil, he of Everybody’s Talkin of Nilsson fame) and went out and bought his album, and many many more since then.   An absolute top ten favourite artist, I have seen him live a few times, and been photographed with him.  He is absolutely uncorrupted by fame – mostly because he avoids it; simply making his records and singing live and garnering enough of an audience to keep on going without hits or huge record company promotion.  A socialist and a Christian and a proud Welshman – I love him.  He reminds me so much of the singer-songwriters emerging in the late Sixties and early Seventies.  First up is about his sixth album (still haven’t got round to digging out his earlier ones) Being There (1992); by now all the elements were there, beautiful acoustic guitar and that yearning yet amazing voice – oh, and the songs – which is really the key.  He sings about ordinary people and ordinary emotions – a bit like a British Springsteen (see S).  So, best songs  – the title track of course, ‘Working Mother’ (who is a part-time prostitute to pay the bills), ‘Swansea’ (squaddies reminiscing and wishing they were back home), ‘Please Sir’ (a kid asks why his redundant miner cries at night) and of course the beautiful ‘Dolphins’.  Next is 95’s self-titled album Martyn Joseph (which may have been the record companies attempt to stir some new interest).   Well, another great album with some classic songs – best of which are ‘Cardiff bay’, ‘Talk About It In The Morning’ and ‘Carried In Sunlight’.   A hauntingly lovely record.  Next up was Full Colour Black and White (1996). And the great songs just kept on coming, favourites include ‘Arizona Dreams’, ‘The Ballad of Richard Penderyn’ (a very personal take on a Welsh working-class hero) and ‘Hang The World.’  Following on in 1998 is Tangled Souls, another classic album.  I really don’t know how a singer like Martyn can keep on coming up with such brilliant new songs – but he does.  Another album packed with great songs – ‘Somewhere In America’, ‘I Don’t Know Why’ and ‘Sing To My Soul’.   Next is a live CD, which I got from The Passport Queue, which was a fan magazine sent out by Martyn three or four times a year…Live at St. David’s Hall, Cardiff.   This was a 1995 concert; I know I saw him there once , but I think it was a few years later.  A lovely acoustic album, mostly just Martyn and his guitar – nicely they have included his in-between songs chat and tuning his guitar.  On some songs he expands the words as if he is in a trance before bringing the song back to its conclusion.  Best songs ‘An Aching and a Longing’, ‘Between the Rainbows’ and ‘Carried in Sunlight’.  A very nice addition to my collection. 

Then we have what, at the time, was really my favourite album of his – a long title; Whoever It Was That Brought Me Here, Will Have To Take me Home (2003).  But now, with the space of distance, I feel that while another excellent album I quite like the older albums better.  Still, a cracker of an album – opener ‘Love Is’ soon became a live favourite.  Also excellent are the title track and ‘Wake Me Up’ and ‘Walk Down The Mountain’.  This is a quieter album, with his voice softer, almost whispering at times.  Then I have a double live album; Folk Faith and Anarchy (2004).  This is actually a rather unusual record – it is a collaboration between Martyn, Tom Robinson and Steve Knightley; they toured the UK and I saw them live.  They sang some of their own songs but also each other’s, so a really interesting evening.  Anyway, I really like this record, especially the contributions from Tom  – ‘War Baby’ and ‘Tattooed Me’, and Steve’s ‘Yeovil Town’.  Next is Run For Cover (also 2004) where Martyn sings some of his favourite songs by other artists; Dylan, Springsteen, U2 and others.  I especially like ‘The Mayor Of Candor’ by Harry Chapin (see C) and ‘One Of Us’ by Joan Osborne (see O) and of course ‘Anthem’ by Leonard Cohen.  Call these covers records self-indulgent, and maybe they are – but I do quite like them.    Deep Blue (2006) followed; another quite quiet album, although it does contain ‘Proud Valley Boy’ – a song about the time that Paul Robson came to sing for the miners in the valleys of Wales.  I also love ‘I Can’t Breathe’ and ‘Turn Me Tender’ – another great album.  Also in 2006 Martyn released MJGB06 – which is a live concert from Greenbelt Festival.  Nothing really different, but some good live versions of old and more recent favourites.  Vegas (2007) followed – a slightly more upbeat album.  Not really my favourite record; not that it is bad by any means, it is just me I expect.  It is just sometimes you get a bit of overload, and unless something really grabs you, you simply listen and file away without truly realising the songs.  Saying that, relistening again I do like a few songs which at first I probably ignored.  ‘Coming Down’ is one of those bluesy songs which slowly worm their way into your brain.  ‘The Fading Of The Light’ has a tentative melody and lovely words. And the closer ‘Nobody Gets Everything’ has a sadness and truth about it.    Martyn, like most performers I suspect, has found that as time goes by his songs, especially sung every night, change from their recorded versions.  So, in 2008 he released updated versions of some of his songs.  The album called Evolved is mostly acoustic guitar and voice, I know the songs almost by heart and love these evolved versions.  Nothing new here but a lovely resume of his career – every song is a winner.  Under Lemonade Skies came out in 2010; at the time it rapidly became a favourite.  Some artists can simply do no wrong; he seems to grow better as time passes.  A lot of barely sung slow songs; ‘There’s Always Maybe’, social conscience songs – ‘So Many Lies’ and ‘Lonely like America’ and the elegiac closer ‘Brothers In Exile’.  A superb album.    Songs For The Coming Home (2012) is up next.   Another classic album with Martyn almost losing himself in the songs – best are ‘Falling From Grace’, ‘Still A Lot Of Love’ and ‘Archive’. Tires Rushing By In The Rain – (2013) is another covers album – but this time all the songs are Bruce Springsteens.  I love it and at 17 songs it is a tad overlong, but hey – I cannot fault a single song.  Favourites are ‘The River’, ‘One Step Up’ and ‘Growing Up’.  I could listen to this all day – and just have done….hahaha.  Next was an a album called Sanctuary, and I bought the accoustic version (2016).  This is really quite e demo version.  Not really so good, and I cant say I loved the songs – still.  I was for a while a member of The Passport Queue, which was Martyn’s fan club.  Occasionally you would receive free CDs of rare and live stuff.  Lyrics and Landscapes – was a Radio Wales broadcast of an interview with Martyn and a few of his songs – quite pleasant but nothing new.  Best of them was Summer of Flowers, which had a lot of original stuff on it and a few live songs and interviews in Canada.   Last, but not least is a double greatest hits album Thunder and Rainbows, a gorgeous collection of his songs, almost all my favourites are there and mostly it is the slightly earlier stuff.  Hard to keep up as Martyn continues to release new stuff and I am about 2 albums behind as I write.  One of my very special favourite artists.

Martyn Joseph | Discography | Discogs